THE owner of a disused chapel who angered his neighbours by chopping down trees is paying a hefty price.
Benjamin Paget, 41, from Leicestershire, landed himself in court after chopping down the 'historic' trees without prior permission.
The businessman, who is hoping to turn the former church into a family home, has angered villagers in a move which cost him nearly £2,500.
The 41-year-old project manager, told how he had been too busy to think about seeking approval from the council to remove the trees from the property, because his partner, Sophie, was having a baby and they were opening a new café.
He told The Sun Online: “Surely people can't be offended by us cutting down overgrowing trees?
"But at least one of our neighbours was because they snitched on us, feeling we had done something wrong.
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However despite the whopping fine he now has to pay for his actions, Mr Paget, added: “We don’t hold any grudge."
A mystery resident complained to the local borough council when they discovered, that a landmark feature of the former chapel had been brutally hacked away.
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Mr Paget, who paid £300,000 for the property in the village of Great Dalby, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, then had to attend Leicester Magistrates' Court.
He was ordered to pay £500.00 per tree, plus a £400 surcharge and £1,000 in costs.
The local authority said the outcome was a warning to residents not to breach planning rules if they intend on doing works to their property or land.
Neighbour Yvonne Cross, 80, said: “It looks awful and makes me angry that he'd do this but luckily he didn't get away with it, he paid the price.
“The chapel has been a focal point of our village for many years, and people used to pray there, and it looked lovely as it was with all the greenery covering the front.
“I don’t understand why he did it and although I’m against it I wasn't the one to complain to the council but someone did.
"I have no idea who it was."
Roger Sharpe, who used to maintain the yews on behalf of the chapel, said: “The problem has been solved.
"I did all the pruning before the place was sold and and the trees were in a very bad state.
“Yews are poisonous and there is a family living there.
"But it is for the council to make the decision which they have done.”
Mr Paget, explaining why he removed the trees, said: "We have a big family and there’s lots of space and we want to renovate.
"Me and my friends cut them down. It didn’t take long, only a couple of hours.
"I hold my hands up! It was completely my fault. It is a learning curve."
After Paget’s sentencing Councillor Alison Freer, said: "We are satisfied with the outcome of this successful prosecution.
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"We take enforcement matters very seriously as they impact on the local, natural environment and history of the borough.
"We are keen to uphold and promote a robust but fair planning enforcement regime to ensure people are not flouting the planning rules and damaging the borough."
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